There are few stigmas in the world that are as pervasive as the stigma applied to couples in an age gap relationship. If you don’t know what that is, it’s very simple. An age gap relationship is a relationship with at least a ten year age difference between the two people. For our purposes, we’ll be talking about heterosexual, cis-gendered relationships. This type of relationship exists in all scenarios, but it’s just easier to give it an overview if we keep it limited to this criterion. It doesn’t matter if the woman is 12 years older than the man, or if the man is 30 years older than the woman. These points still apply and it’s worth talking about.
Very Well Mind recently release an entire article on the subject and it serves as a fairly deep dive on the information provided. It’s more than worth a look if you want an in-depth look at how these relationships function, the stigmas the people enjoying them have to endure and why a man and woman of different ages would want to come together as a couple. Right now, we’re going to take a look at the subject overall and figure out why so many people seem to have a problem with it.
Evolution and Age Gaps
Let’s take a look at the basic reason that an age gap relationship might seem appealing to a pair of people. It really all comes down to evolution. Men don’t really have a reproductive clock that they have to worry about. They don’t have to have children by a certain age before they lose the ability to make it happen. That means that younger women don’t have to worry about starting a family, just because their partners are past a fertile age.
This comes into play when you consider, as Very Well Mind puts it: “Older men also tend to have more monetary resources due to their age and experience, which can be more appealing for women when considering how they want to support their potential children. This results in a historical pairing that has been successful since younger women are more likely to be more fertile.”
That’s going to give younger women every reason to desire an older man. These men are financially stable and still able to give them a family. It seems like a win/win scenario all around, but then there are the stigmas that they have to deal with.
Age Gap Prejudice
It can seem like anything you do is going to elicit a knee-jerk negative stereotype reaction from someone, no matter what you do. If you get coffee in a Styrofoam cup from a coffee shop then you clearly don’t care about the environment and you’re ruining the planet. If you shop at Walmart then you don’t care about small business and you’re ruining the economy. None of that compares to facing constant criticism just because of the age of your partner. It’s a never-ending onslaught that you can’t do anything about; unless you end a successful relationship with someone you love.
There’s a whole, scientific study on this subject that was researched by Brian Collisson and Luciana Ponce De Leon. As they put it: “Age-gap couples often elicit negative stereotypes and prejudice. According to social exchange and equity theories, we predicted that prejudice towards age-gap couples may stem from perceived relational inequity. We hypothesized that age-gap, as compared to age-matched, couples were perceived as less equitable and, as a result, less liked.”
Can you guess what they found out? Well, just take a look at this chart:
Figure 1 Source: Springer.com
That’s right: Age gap relationships are considered less favorably that mixed weight relationships, interracial relationships, and even mixed socioeconomic status relationships. Just imagine how bad that must feel for the people who have them!
Why it Exists
So now we have to figure out why these prejudices actually exist. As Mialauni Griggs, ALMFT states: “I think the most common stigma is that if the woman is younger then she must be a gold digger and he must be lonely or creepy. [Or that] if the woman is older, she must be trying to recapture her youth and he is probably the gold digger.”
So that basically boils down to the sentiment that the older person in every age gap relationship is weird, sad, or creepy, while the younger person is a gold digger. If only it were that easy to actually understand everything in the world. If you let prejudice run your life then you’re going to have a laughably oversimplified view of the world and that’s unfortunately, how most people operate. That doesn’t mean that an age gap relationship is perfect, no matter which angle you look at it. There are problems with every pairing and these are no different.
The biggest problem that most couples in an age gap relationship run into is a power dynamic. It only makes sense that one of these people is going to have a larger income and more professional security. That can lead to a situation where the older person is able to carry more weight in decision making and all other aspects of the relationship. That’s why it’s important to always keep this in mind, for the couples. If you know that it could become a problem, then you have to monitor on a consistent basis so it doesn’t begin to tear you apart.
Do what makes you Happy
At the end of the day, there’s always going to be someone who enjoys looking down on you. There’s always going to be someone who takes pride in taking the things you like away from you. The best thing that you can do is ignore them. The only real way to win against someone like that is to live your life well and be happy. That’s the only thing that ever really matters. Date who you want to date and be happy with them. No one can take that from you.